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Our view: Get Armacost on campus to start to-do list

Herald pull quote, 12/18/19

When new UND President Andrew Armacost arrives in town, he’ll be a busy man.

He’ll likely make the rounds in the business community, familiarize himself with lawmakers, visit with media and attend countless UND events. And there will be speeches at service clubs – oh, so many service clubs – as he hits the mashed potatoes circuit.

And if he arrives in late spring, he’ll have to do it all in just a couple of months before the start of the 2020-21 school year.

That’s why we hope Armacost arrives before June 1, the drop-dead date given to him by the State Board of Education upon his hiring. His contract runs from June 1, 2020, through 2023. As an aside, it’s worth noting that Armacost’s contract is six pages and includes terms for early resignation and the like. It’s a much-improved document from the previous contracts that were only a single page and left loopholes for presidents to hunt for jobs and escape unscathed if they choose to leave for another post.

Yes, this contract is much better, but with just one tiny hitch: That June 1 start date.

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Armacost is between jobs. He spent two decades at the Air Force Academy, rising to dean of faculty in 2013. He retired earlier this year and beat out 60 other candidates in being named UND’s 13th full-time president.

Now that the process of hiring a president is complete, it would be good to get Armacost on campus. Of course, interim President Joshua Wynne will remain at UND, moving back to his role as vice president of health affairs and dean of the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Moving Wynne out of the president’s role needn’t be immediate – he’s been a strong and stabilizing president since taking over in June and probably has important tasks remaining – but the sooner Armacost can be in Grand Forks, the better.

The Legislature will convene in January 2021. If Armacost takes office June 1, that leaves only seven months to organize strategies that will be legislatively important to UND.

Will UND and NDSU leaders again push the Legislature for additional research dollars? It was part of a major initiative by NDSU President Dean Bresciani and former UND President Mark Kennedy during the last session of the Legislature. To be successful this time around will require many meetings and trips across the state.

Will UND continue its One UND strategic plan, or will Armacost come with his own strategies?

The to-do list will go on. And checking off those tasks will be more difficult while Armacost tours the state, shakes a thousand hands, gets pulled into a hundred corners and deals with the traditional minutiae that always encumbers new university presidents.

As Armacost decides the best path forward for UND, his first months here also will be filled with so many exponentially less important decisions, such as: “Would you like the beef, or the chicken?”

It’s best to get him here early and get those little, yet time-consuming, decisions out of the way.

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